- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 2, 2003

Country boy’s big hit

Anthony Clark admits he can’t tell if a television show is going to sink or swim. Neither can his co-stars on CBS’s “Yes, Dear,” apparently. The group reads like a who’s who of failed sitcom stars.

Mr. Clark and company can laugh about it all now. Their CBS sitcom is in its fourth year despite an initial drubbing by TV critics.

“They have every right to say what they wanna say,” the Lynchburg, Va., native said of the critical reaction in the press. “The American public doesn’t turn their television sets on and off because of what’s written in a paper or magazine.

“When it begins to make you laugh and you’re growing with your characters week to week, the public takes it to heart,” he said of the show’s early years.

“Yes, Dear” follows the conflicting lives of two young, married couples who don’t see eye to eye on parenting. Mr. Clark plays Greg, whose parental skills are tested by his brother-in-law (Mike O’Malley as Jimmy) who never lets fatherhood get in the way of traditionally manly pursuits. Jean Louisa Kelly and Liza Snyder play their respective wives.

The show airs Monday evenings at 8 as part of CBS’ comedy lineup. Tonight’s episode finds Greg promising his son a trip to the amusement park, despite his aversion to roller coasters, to convince him he is as cool as Jimmy.

Mr. Clark, formerly the star of his own short-lived sitcom — 1996’s “Boston Common” — is humbled by the television production process.

“I thought ‘Boston Common’ was gonna be the show that would stick around for a while,” he said. “There was an originality factor to that show. I don’t think NBC knew what to do with it.”

Sitcoms have long been Mr. Clark’s end game. The young comic went to Boston’s Emerson College to study acting, and his favorite memories were attending sitcom tapings on the West Coast.

“I grew up on Carol Burnett and Redd Foxx and Flip Wilson and ‘Soap.’” he said. “I was mesmerized by them.”

He sees elements of the classic “Odd Couple” formula in his battles with Mr. O’Malley.

Mr. Clark, 39, got his show business break performing stand-up comedy. Working obscure college gigs proved a great training ground for TV, he said. “It plays hand in hand,” he said. “There’s a live audience [in both]. It all goes back to timing. It’s almost exactly the same as stand-up.

“The audience will tell you what’s funny and when it’s not,” he said.

Mr. Clark still performs comedy routines around the country, time permitting.

“I continue to do all the clubs I came up in, but I can’t do it all. I’ve learned to conserve my energies. I miss it sometimes,” Mr. Clark said.

Stand-up puts you “completely in control of everything. You don’t have to hear from anyone. You’re totally in charge,” he said. “When it doesn’t go good there’s no one else to blame it on. It’s just you. It’s the rawest form of showbiz.”

His first stand-up routine gave him “a rush,” he said. Afterward, he got more than a bit queasy but felt like he found his niche.

“The first time, you have no idea you’re funny or not,” he said. “I’ve found something I’m naturally good at. I wasn’t great at anything else. My siblings were great athletes, not me.”

‘Joe’ knows reality

Just when you thought the networks couldn’t spin reality dating shows in any new direction comes “Average Joe.”

The new show lets a knockout NFL cheerleader pick from 16 single men…with, shall we say, great personalities. These average palookas get a chance to compete for a beauty while the cheerleader — told to expect a group of hunky men — scratches her head and wonders why she ever trusted a reality show producer.

“Average Joe” begins at 10 tonight on NBC.

Keaton on ‘Thin Ice’

Diane Keaton turns to TV tonight for a new Lifetime movie which lets her branch out from her traditional, upper-crust roles.

In the fact-based “On Thin Ice,” debuting at 9, Miss Keaton plays a widowed mother who deals drugs in a last-ditch effort to support her two children.

Miss Keaton, the film’s star and executive producer, also will be seen this winter in “Something’s Gotta Give” alongside Jack Nicholson.

Rapper remembered

BET marks the one-year anniversary of rap star Jam Master Jay’s death with a five-part series investigating his unsolved murder.

The DJ for iconic rappers Run DMC was killed last Oct. 30 in a Queens, N.Y., recording studio.

The series, beginning tonight as part of “BET Nightly News” (airing weeknights), draws from more than 18 hours of interviews with more than a dozen sources over three months, including family and friends of the slain rap star, born Jason Mizell.

“While mainstream media has barely scratched the surface in the investigation of the murder of Jam Master Jay, his family, friends and the African-American community still have many unanswered questions,” Nina Henderson Moore, BET executive vice president of News, Public Affairs and Program Acquisitions, said in a statement. “With this investigative series, we hope to uncover some of those answers, while also taking a look at the disturbing trend of unsolved murder cases involving African Americans.”

Tonight’s program airs at 11 on the cable network.

Culkin inks deal

Associated Press

“Home Alone” star Macaulay Culkin has signed a deal with NBC to develop several projects, including a possible sitcom in fall 2004, according to Variety.

Mr. Culkin has met with “Late Night” host Conan O’Brien and may work on a project with him, NBC spokesman Kevin Reilly told the trade publication.

“We’re going to use him in an unconventional way,” Mr. Reilly told Variety.

“I don’t think you’ll see Macaulay as a straight-down-the-middle romantic lead. I think you’ll see him in something surprising, a little offbeat.”

Mr. Reilly said Mr. Culkin has “always had uncanny instincts” as an actor, and a guest spot last season on NBC’s “Will & Grace” reinforced that point.

“He came out and just did a great turn on that show,” Mr. Reilly said.

“He reminded everyone here that he possesses genuine talent. There are certain child stars who figure out how to translate that talent to adulthood, and I think Macaulay’s been waiting for the right time to come back and re-emerge as a star.”

Earlier this year Mr. Culkin starred in the independent film “Party Monster.” He also appeared onstage in Richard Nelson’s “Madame Melville,” starring with Irene Jacob in London and Joely Richardson on Broadway, and will appear in United Artists’ upcoming “Saved” opposite Jena Malone and Mandy Moore.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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